Clegg: stance ‘needs to be even-handed’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

NICK CLEGG has been ac­cused of “hav­ing no back­bone” fol­low­ing his call for an arms em­bargo on Is­rael. The Lib­eral Demo­crat leader and Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Vince Ca­ble, pushed for a full sus­pen­sion of li­cences for arms ex­ports.

Mr Clegg said the Is­raeli mil­i­tary had “over­stepped the mark in Gaza” and Bri­tain should act in re­sponse.

But po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents said it was hyp­o­crit­i­cal of him to pur­sue a hard line on Is­rael be­cause of his record of deal­ing with his col­leagues’ own con­tro­ver­sial state­ments.

The Lib Dems have yet to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against MP David Ward af­ter he said last month he would “prob­a­bly” be will­ing to fire a rocket at Is­rael if he lived in Gaza.

As we went to press, a govern­ment spokesman said a re­view of ex­ist­ing arms ex­port li­cences to Is­rael was on­go­ing and no new li­cences would be is­sued at the mo­ment. Mr Clegg hopes the tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion can be made per­ma­nent.

A govern­ment spokesman said: “Sus­pend­ing ex­port li­cences is not a de­ci­sion we take lightly and it is right that we ex­am­ine the facts fully.”

The Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil said it was “deeply con­cerned” by Mr Clegg’s com­ments.

“He notes the vast sums of aid money spent by Ha­mas on con­struct­ing a so­phis­ti­cated net­work of ter­ror­ist tun­nels un­der Is­rael but is un­able to ac­cept that Is­rael has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to con­front and de­com­mis­sion these threats.

“It is hard to imag­ine that, if mis­siles were land­ing on Lon­don and Manch­ester, or ter­ror­ists were emerg­ing from at­tack tun­nels in Birm­ing­ham and Leeds, the Deputy Prime Min­is­ter would as­sert that Bri­tain should demon­strate ‘mag­na­nim­ity’ and use ‘po­lit­i­cal will, not mil­i­tary might’.”

The LibDem Friends of Is­rael said: “Arms ex­port li­cences are al­most al­ways un­der re­view. At times of con­flict, gov­ern­ments nat­u­rally wish to take stock... Nick Clegg is a friend of Is­rael both po­lit­i­cally and per­son­ally. Some le­git­i­mate ques­tions have been asked and rightly so. LDFI has worked with the party lead­er­ship and within the wider party to con­tin­u­ally strive for bal­ance in com­ments made. “

Mr Clegg said the res­ig­na­tion of Baroness Warsi from the govern­ment, and her high­light­ing of Bri­tain’s sale of arms to Is­rael, had raised “very se­ri­ous ques­tions. I share her con­cerns”.

He said: “The Is­raeli mili- tary op­er­a­tion over­stepped the mark in Gaza. That’s why I be­lieve that the ex­port li­cences should now be sus­pended.”

A Lib Dem spokesman said Mr Clegg had pre­vi­ously con­demned Mr Ward’s com­ments and that dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the Brad­ford West MP was on­go­ing.

In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Jus­tine Green­ing said Bri­tain would send an ad­di­tional £2 mil­lion to UNWRA’s Gaza emer­gency ap­peal. The money will be used for mat­tresses, blan­kets and equip­ment for 8,000 Pales­tinian fam­i­lies and brings the UK’s con­tri­bu­tion in the past two weeks to £15m.

PHOTO: AP

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